In this post I will analyze the UX industry from the aspect of resource integration. My starting point is the reasoning of Åkesson (2015) and Koskela-Huotari (2014). Also I will discuss both the B2B service and the B2C service of a UX designer, as defined in my earlier post on the problems with Multiple concurrent service delivery.
So, by accepting the service ecosystem perspective on value co-creation (Koskela-Huotari, 2014) the natural next step for me is to ask: so what? It seems pretty obvious to me that everyone depends on an enormous network of resources to do anything in the modern society. Until I have taken the long-wanted course in survival in the wilderness I will be heavily dependent on the service of millions of people. But how does this insight help me become better at my job, to deliver better UX services?
I would like to start by looking at the B2C service that I offer. As a UX designer that embraces the service logic perspective I believe that my main work is to go away from the traditional way of studying the customers as passive subjects. However, to be truly critical of myself, and the UX industry I have to think if we are really doing so much better? Åkesson (2015) points out that as passive objects we tend to observe the customers, segment them, target them, market toward them and sell to them. Instead she suggests that we view the customers as an operand resource that produce an effect. So, the user research part of the UX work is definitely observing customers and segmenting them. Does this mean we are stuck in the old traditional perspective? I believe not. I would say that it is of uttermost importance to separate different ways of observation and segmentation. Observation performed by someone trained in ethnographic methods will give a result that is indeed treating the customer as and operand resource, with knowledge and skills. The whole point of it is to understand the situation of the customer and how to make the best service for them. I do acknowledge the risk of traditional marketing efforts might use another kind of observation, which might not lead to the same kind of insights.
Apart from the user research, the UX industry does involve customers in the design process. However, the way of involving them differs much from case to case. Some are more structured, evaluating prototypes according to ISO standards (for example ISO/TS 20282-2:2013), while others are more innovative and work with co-design activities where the consumers are actually doing part of the design work. As with the user research activities, my feeling is that it is not as much about what method is used, as of the perspective of the design team, and how the input of the customers is used. Just talking to customers, or having them in a focus group, will not for sure make us truly understand how they use our service to create value.
Looking at the B2B process I feel that it is much clearer that the UX industry have great problems. As already discussed (in the post Much UX work is not visible), different customers have different understandings of what a UX designer does. Furthermore, different customers have different expectations on what we should do. Some customers are service oriented, and expect to be part of the process when we work with them. They understand that UX is about change of perspective and that everyone involved have to change their mindset. Other customers are goods oriented. They expect us to come into their project and deliver a good design. They don’t want to be part of our process. Their reason for taking us into their project is to not have to deal with these difficult questions themselves. This is a customer segmentation for the UX industry. The questions to be asked are:
- How do we best include the service oriented customers into our service delivery? I have the feeling that there is much more to be done! Whenever we are blessed with a customer like this we might be caught off guard if we are not prepared.
- How do we handle the situation where a goods oriented customer don’t want to be involved with our work? Should we try to make them interested in taking part in the same ways as we make service oriented customers take part? Or should we find other ways to make them get involved? Maybe we should simply accept their stance and work in house and specify clear deliverables? Or should we perhaps limit them from our market, and decline their offer to hire us?
What are your thoughts on these questions?
So what does the UX industry have to do?
- Clarify what characterizes good user research
- Find out what kind of user involvement in the design process gives the best results. Is it about what methods to use, or rather how they are executed?
- Define the best ways to include service oriented customers into our service delivery
- Find successful strategies on how to handle the situation where a goods oriented customers don’t want to be involved with our work